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story.lead_photo.caption Jeremy Jacob/FULTON SUNNorth Callaway sophomore Bradyn O’Neal takes a cut at a pitch Wednesday in the team’s 3-0 loss against Father Tolton in the Class 3 District 8 title game. O’Neal was named to the Eastern Missouri all-conference second team, making this his first all-conference selection.

The North Callaway baseball team's season ended following a 3-0 loss Wednesday in the Class 3 District 8 title game to Father Tolton, but the team still has something to celebrate as three Thunderbirds were named to the Eastern Missouri all-conference team.

Seniors Austin Taylor and Christian Griffith, and sophomore Bradyn O'Neal were selected for the first time. Griffith was named to the first team and Taylor and O'Neal were named to the second team.

Taylor hit for a .324 average and had a .438 on base percentage. He caught the majority of the innings behind the plate and was a leader from day one this season, North Callaway head coach Zeth Lavy said, after transferring in last year and missing out on a season due to the pandemic. Lavy admired how Taylor battled through at-bats and was willing to lay down a sacrifice bunt, if he was asked.

"He was all about getting after the baseball team, and he had a really good year," Lavy said. "He's as tough of a guy with two strikes as I think I've ever coached."

Griffith served as an important piece in the middle of North Callaway's order. He led the team in average at .333, slugging percentage at .431 and in OPS at .885, notching a team-leading 24 hits as well.

Lavy said he has coached Griffith since he was in seventh grade, when he played football. Griffith earned an all-district selection his sophomore season in baseball and now deservedly earns all-conference honors this season, Lavy said.

"His production was kind of expected," Lavy said. "He had a little bit of a slow start, as did kind of the whole team. He was our biggest power guy."

The underclassman O'Neal established himself early as a leadoff hitter who could not only get on base but also wreak havoc on the bases, Lavy said. O'Neal had a team-leading .490 one base percentage and 13 steals, recording 23 hits.

O'Neal had twice as many walks as he does strikeouts, Lavy said, and will continue to be a key part of the program in the leadoff spot and the shortstop position.

"He's just a staple at the top of our lineup," Lavy said. "He's learning the shortstop position still, but he's going to be a heck of a ballplayer."

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